Logo: University of Southern California

USC Salutes Andrew J. Viterbi

Top university officials gather to honor USC trustee and Viterbi School namesake for winning the National Medal of Science

November 02, 2008 — USC President Steven B. Sample and Executive Vice President and Provost C. L. Max Nikias saluted Andrew J. Viterbi, USC trustee, fellow engineer and winner of the 2007 National Medal of Science for his recent award — the highest honor given by the country for science and technology — in a Doheny Library courtyard celebration on Oct. 30, 2008.
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USC President Steven B. Sample, behind podium, shakes hands with Andrew J. Viterbi, winner of the 2007 National Medal of Science.  (Steve Cohn image)

Sample praised Viterbi for his pioneering research in digital wireless communications and his faithful service to USC.  Viterbi is the third USC scholar in the last three years to be recognized by the White House with a national medal. In 2006, University Professor Kevin Starr earned the National Humanities Award and last year USC Thornton School of Music professor Morten Lauridsen was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

Sample read the resolution of commendation presented to Viterbi, which stated, in part: “The University of Southern California honors the commitment and contributions of Andrew J. Viterbi to the well-being and continued vitality of the university and its mission, salutes his distinguished accomplishments in the fields of engineering and communication, and congratulates him on earning the prestigious National Medal of Science.”    

Viterbi, who gave his name to the USC School of Engineering in 2004 with a generous $52-million gift, also holds the USC Presidential Chair within the Viterbi School. Viterbi is known worldwide for his development of an algorithm (the Viterbi algorithm) and his contributions to Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) wireless technology, which transformed the theory and practice of digital communications.

In accepting his commendation, Viterbi explained the “high five” photo of he and President George W. Bush, taken when he was awarded the national medal at a White House ceremony.
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The courtyard celebration outside Doheny Library.     (Steve Cohn image)

“President Bush was very affable, very friendly, and I asked him if he would give me a high five for my grandson, because I had promised him I would do something special like that,” Viterbi said.  “I will probably never live that down,” he added, laughing with the audience.

Viterbi co-founded QUALCOMM Inc., a developer and manufacturer of mobile satellite communications and digital wireless telephony. Prior to co-founding QUALCOMM, Viterbi co-founded LINKABIT Corp., a digital communications company.

He served as a professor at the UCLA School of Engineering and Applied Science until 1973 and continued teaching on a part-time basis at the University of California, San Diego until 1994, where he is currently a professor emeritus.

Prior to that, Viterbi was a member of the communications research section of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, where he was one of the first communication engineers to recognize the potential of digital transmission
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Three engineers: President Steven Sample, left, Andrew Viterbi, center, Executive Vice President C.L. Nikias, right.   (Steve Cohn image)
techniques for space and satellite telecommunication systems.

Today all four international standards for digital cellular telephony utilize the Viterbi algorithm for interference suppression, as do most digital satellite communication systems.